Holidays are what you make them

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- The holiday season is in full swing and with it comes joy, or often times, depression when families are unable to come together and celebrate during this time of year. Many families are fortunate enough to share the experience, but it's not always the case for many servicemembers.

The mission comes first in defending our country. Many servicemembers 'take one for the team' and make a necessary sacrifice by being deployed or stationed away from their families during the holidays, or missing the chance to visit their loved ones because of work.

For those who aren't fortunate enough to see loved ones, remember, the holidays are what you make them. Dr. Tom Patterson, 509th Medical Group clinical social worker, has some thoughts that can help Air Force Global Strike Command members make it through the holidays happily.

"The holiday season is meant to be a happy time," he said. "Some people may experience a reduced mood. It could be due to separation from family, inclement weather, financial concerns or other personal reasons. There are lots of things you can do about it if you need to perk things up a bit."

Keep in touch. Technology now allows more ways than ever to stay current and share in the holidays. With e-mail, text and instant messaging and video chat, sharing the holidays from any distance and still feeling connected is simple.

Make free time meaningful. Catch up on reading, video games or other hobbies. If there is extra time, use it for something that gives a sense of accomplishment. Visit the city and see everything it has to offer. Work ahead on an online course and be that much further along. Feed the squirrels or put out some bird seeds and see who shows up to thank you.

Do something for someone else. Service before self is an Air Force value. This is a great time of year to give back, perhaps through a contribution or an act of service. If group activity doesn't sound pleasant, spend a few minutes cleaning up a park area. Donate a few dollars to the less fortunate. Some acts of service feel even better when no one knows but you!

Personal maintenance matters. Eat a little less, exercise a little more. Spend a little less. Go outside and get fresh air.

Remember the spiritual meaning of the season. We are mind, body and spirit. Do something for all three to stay in the best balance.

Look around for signs of depression. Help Airmen that are away from home, and lean on each other. The holiday is what you make it. If depression lingers during the holiday season, call the 509th MDG Mental Health Clinic at (660) 687-4341.